CDC names top five food borne illness pathogens: The top five germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the United States are norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus aureus, aka “staph,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some other germs don’t cause as many illnesses, but when they do, the diseases are more likely to lead to hospitalization. Those germs include E coli, Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism), Listeria, Vibrio and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) often called E. coli O157. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Thousands could be exposed to hepatitis A: The phones have been ringing off the hook at the Utah County Health Department in Utah, and the phone will probably keep ringing because potentially thousands of Utah County customers could have been exposed to hepatitis A. People who went to a particular Sonic Drive-In or a specific Olive Garden in Spanish Fork may have been exposed by two employees, according to the department. The Utah County Health Department says this is a particularly bad strain of hepatitis A, with some 60 percent of victims being hospitalized. The department is urging any customer who ate or used the bathroom at either restaurant to get vaccinated. The outbreak has been tied to an outbreak that started in San Diego last summer.  READ MORE

Rare monkey disease could harm humans: Wildlife managers in Florida say they want to remove roaming monkeys from the state in light of a new study published on Wednesday, which finds some of the animals are excreting a virus that can be dangerous to humans. Scientists studying a growing population of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs state park say that rather than just carrying herpes B, which is common in the species, some of the monkeys have the virus in their saliva and other bodily fluids, posing a potential risk of spreading the disease. READ MORE

Dad’s stomach-churning video: Bath toys are a great way to get your kids in the tub and keep them entertained while you wash away the day’s dirt. But there may be something dangerous and downright disgusting lurking inside your little ones’ favourite plastic characters. This dad’s stomach-churning video shows just how important it is to keep bath toys clean and dry – and what happens when you don’t. READ MORE

WEATHER EMERGENCIES

A ‘Niagara’ of mud: The mud cascaded down scorched, blackened slopes still blanketed with ash. With no trees or vegetation to slow the surge it swept rocks and boulders from the Verdugo mountains into a thunderous river. Swaths of southern California are in need after nature’s latest battering, this time in the form of heavy rains which unleashed massive debris flows, a grim sequel to a record drought and record wildfires. At least 17 people died, mostly in Montecito, a wealthy enclave north-west of LA. The avalanche buried homes and swept others from their foundations, which in addition to the dead left at least 25 people injured, 24 missing and hundreds marooned, authorities said. READ MORE

ANIMAL HEALTH

Horses slaughtered for meat, possible ritual sacrifice: A woman feeding stray dogs in a remote area of northwest Miami-Dade stumbled onto to the scene of a horrific horse slaughter. Animal cruelty investigator Rachel Taylor said they found dozens of horses, or their parts, in various stages of decomposition. All of the legs had been stripped of their meat. She said it looks like the animals were killed elsewhere and dumped here. She said the problem is widespread, and some may have been used in ritual sacrifices. READ MORE

Outrage after koala found nailed to post: A dead koala has been found screwed to a pole in Australia in a “sickening” act that sparked outrage Thursday on social media. Koala Rescue Queensland (KRQ) responded to a report of one of the furry animals climbing a picnic shelter at Brooloo Park Lookout near Gympie. But on closer inspection the koala was found to be dead and screwed in place. The much-loved koala has been under increasing threat across Australia in recent decades, particularly from habitat loss, disease, dog attacks and bushfires. READ MORE

Avian influenza strains show up during holiday season: Two global health agencies said different strains of avian influenza popped up during the 2017 holiday season, although the number of human infections appears to have abated over time. Since December, the H5N6 strain of AI has been reported in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, South Korea and Taiwan, in addition to H5N8 outbreaks in Italy and Russia, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said in its latest update. READ MORE

New Veterinary Feed Directive has important implications: Beef and dairy veterinarians will continue shifting toward a more consultative and less reactive role in 2018 and into the future, with consumer and regulatory trends helping drive that change. The FDA’s new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rules have been in place for one year, but impacts on the ground will continue through 2018 and beyond. The VFD rules place purchase and use of medically important feed-grade antibiotics under the oversight of veterinarians. Multiple products that producers could purchase over the counter (OTC) prior to January 1, 2017 now require a VFD order from a veterinarian. That sounds simple, but the implications reach deeply into our beef and dairy production systems. READ MORE

TRAVEL SECURITY

U.S. travel warning puts five Mexican states at same level as Syria, Iraq: Rampant crime and gang activity in Mexico prompted the U.S. State Department on Wednesday to issue a stringent travel advisory, warning tourists to completely avoid five Mexican states, an advisory level often reserved for nations at war. The State Department’s highest “do not travel” advisory places the states of Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Guerrero at the same warning level as war-ravaged Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Cattlemen allege antitrust activity: Cattlemen lobbyists are asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to look into alleged antitrust and anticompetitive activity among meatpackers in the U.S. Northeast. R-CALF USA and its affiliate Buckeye Quality Beef Association claim that the temporary shutdown of JBS USA’s Souderton, Pa., plant boosted Cargill’s market power in the region. Cargill operates a beef plant in Wyalusing, Pa. Cargill and JBS are the only two major cow and fed cattle buyers in the Northeast, the groups note. READ MORE